There’s an art to compilations, and it’s not always the same art. Does that make sense? I don’t know – it’s currently 10:30 in the morning and I’ve already had a snort of whisky in my coffee. Anyway, compilations can be a generic overview, target a specific period in time, or – if they’re really ambitious – display an evolution of artistic exploration in such a way as to capture an essence, a distillation of what makes a band unique. So enter The Sounds of Science by the Beastie Boys.
Combining early hardcore tracks, deep album cuts, b-sides and more than a few hits, The Sounds of Science really hit home just how much went into the Polly Wog Stew that made up the Beastie Boys (see what I did there?). Never in denial of their hardcore roots, the comp opens with the furious “Beastie Boys” and features a few great cuts off their Aglio e Olio EP like “Believe Me” and “I Want Some.” “Skills to Pay the Bills” is front and center to get attention it deserves, and you even get a track off Mike D’s country album.
Yup, country album.
By the time of The Sounds of Science I was already fully invested in the Beastie Boys discography, so for me it was a chance to get access to the b-sides and obscure stuff I wasn’t able to find in the mainstream record stores at the time. But the usual suspects are equally present, from “Fight For Your Right” to a particularly grooving Fatboy Slim remix of “Body Movin'” off of the previous year’s Hello Nasty. In the age of digital streaming and instant access you can probably create a playlist with all these tracks and be done with it, but back then the opportunity to have so much care and attention put into a compilation (the liner notes are amazing, and on par with what I loved from The Beastie Boys Book) made this thing special, and something I’ll still break out from time to time when I don’t know what flavor of Beastie Boys I want – just give me that Polly Wog Stew.
(Yeah, I did it again)